It is important to continue the struggle despite frustrations and disappointment based on an ultimate faith in the triumph of justice Richard Falk | Chairman of Board of Trustees

Almost unlivable after 15 years of blockade

Israel has a long history of isolating the Gaza Strip, which has been subjected to numerous closures during the past two decades. But the tight blockade imposed following the victory of the Hamas movement in the 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council elections was unprecedented. Israel declared the Gaza Strip a closed area and imposed penalties on the Hamas-led government, including restrictions on imports of fuel and other goods and the movement of people out of and into Gaza.

Over the years, Israeli authorities worked to broaden and deepen the isolation of the Gaza Strip. One of the most draconian restrictions in its impact was Israel’s separation of Gaza from the West Bank. This separation policy restricted Palestinians’ entry into and exit out of Gaza, preventing university students in Gaza from receiving education in West Bank universities, professionals from participating in continuing education, patients from receiving healthcare, businessmen from trading and families from staying united.

 

Under international law, Israel is an occupying power although it already ‘disengaged’ from the Gaza Strip in 2005; it still continues to control entry and exit from Gaza by land, sea and air. Likewise, it controls Gaza’s population registry, telecommunication networks and many other aspects of daily life and infrastructure. Rather than undertaking its duty in protecting the civilian population in the Gaza Strip, Israel has been placing Palestinians under suffocating blockade, which constitutes an unprecedented form of collective punishment in a stark violation of international humanitarian law.

The global community seems unfazed by the unlivable conditions in the Gaza strip or the fact that an entire generation has grown up isolated from the world - save for its contact with advanced weapons technologies raining down on them from Gaza's skies.

Noura Erakat, Euro-Med Monitor’s member of Board of Trustees

The Deterioration of the Humanitarian Situation and Services

(8-12) hours

of power blackouts per day in the Gaza Strip.

 

1.4 hospital beds

available per 1,000 persons

compared to 3 in 2005, before the imposition of the blockade.

7 out of 10

families in Gaza are food-insecure

47%

 
 

Of essential medicines are absent, compared to 16% only in 2005.

33%

 
 

the deficit in medical consumables

68%

 
 

of cancer drugs are in drastically limited supply, compared to 16% in 2005.

42%

 
 

is the survival rate for women with breast cancer, compared to 60% in 2005.

 

Restrictions on Gaza Crossings

Restrictions on movement of both goods and people are long-standing challenges facing Palestinians.

Before Israel imposed its blockade on Gaza, individuals and goods moved in and out through six crossings: Erez, Karni, Nahal Oz, Kerem Shalom and Sufa via Israel and Rafah via Egypt. Once the blockade was enforced, all of them were closed except for Egypt’s Rafah crossing and Israel’s Erez (for people) and Kerem Abu Shalom (for goods).

Passenger traffic through the Rafah crossing drastically declined in 2020 compared to 2019 (about 4,200 passengers per month in 2020 compared to 12,000 in 2019). The Egyptian authorities continued to impose strict restrictions on the number and type of people allowed to travel. As a result, many Palestinians in Gaza found themselves forced to pay exorbitant “coordination fees” (unofficial) to be able to leave during the few and far-reaching days of the crossing openings. Moreover, Egyptian security personnel deal with Palestinian travelers in an inhumane manner and subject them to frequent humiliating searches. These practices prolong the journey between the Rafah crossing and Cairo airport up to 72 hours in some cases (it does not take more than six hours in normal conditions).

28%

 
 

of exit requests to receive medical treatment outside Gaza through Erez crossing were approved at the beginning of 2020, compared to 97% in 2005.

23 working days

to review exit permit requests by ill individuals to receive treatment outside Gaza through Erez crossing.

4600 Palestinians

were permitted to travel through Erez on a monthly basis during 2020, compared to 30,000 in 2005.

4245

entry and exit cases per month through Rafah border in 2020, compared to 40,000 in 2005.

Economic Collapse

The Gaza Strip’s economy has wallowed in a general recession ever since the Israeli blockade was imposed, resulting in the near-total closure of commercial crossings and severe restrictions on the movement of traders and other businesspeople. The three major wars further exacerbated the crisis, paralyzing all enterprise during the assaults. The effects—caused in large part by the destruction of plants and offices and a loss of jobs—lingered long after ceasefires were declared.

On the macroeconomic level, the contribution of the Gaza Strip to the gross domestic product (GDP) of Palestine hovered at less than 18% by the end of 2020.

The (COVID-19) pandemic, which began to spread within the Gaza Strip in August 2020, has multiplied the crises afflicting the sector's economy. Lockdowns have exacerbated the suffering of workers working on the day shift. According to the Federation of Trade Unions in the Gaza Strip, about 160,000 workers lost their jobs or stopped working temporarily due to the closure. In addition, the daily wages of workers are not enough for them to cope with the conditions of closure, especially since the average daily wage for a worker is equivalent to $3, which is not commensurate with the difficult living conditions and the high prices.

 

A UNCTAD report issued on November 25, 2020, said the economic cost of the Israeli occupation on the Gaza Strip during the past decade was estimated at $16.7 billion. This means the per capita economic losses due to the blockade amounted to about $9,000 due to the long-term closure and the military operations that Gaza was subjected to during the siege period.

 

 

49%

 
 

unemployment rate by the beginning of 2021, compared to 23% in 2005

80%

 
 

of citizens in the Gaza Strip depend on aid

56%

 
 

poverty rate in Gaza by the beginning of 2021 compared to 40% in 2005

The average number of people living below the poverty line in the Gaza Strip is twice higher than that of the West Bank.

7000 trucks

of goods entered Gaza through Kerem Shalom crossing per month during 2020, compared to 10,400 in 2005.

316 trucks

left Gaza monthly through Kerem Shalom commercial crossing in 2020, compared to 835 in 2005.

Closure of Commercial Crossings

All commercial crossings of Gaza are now completely closed, except for Kerem Shalom Crossing with Israel, and Rafah border with Egypt.

Farming and the impact of the ‘buffer zone’

Israel has imposed a “buffer zone” inside the Gaza Strip that extends well beyond the border fence. In this area, all movement of Palestinians is prohibited.

The actual boundaries of this security zone are not clear and, like area of the sea in which fishing may take place, the line always seems to be shifting. Until 2008, pedestrian traffic was generally allowed up to 300 meters from the fence, and farmers could go as close as 100 meters in the course of their work. However, with the launch the first major Israeli assault in December 2008, Palestinians were ordered to stay out of a much broader swath of land—reaching 1,000-1,500 meters from the separation fence. The “off-limits” land represented about 35% of the Gaza’s land suitable for agriculture. Israeli forces destroyed or contaminated much of this arable land. After the 2012 military attack, Israel eased these restrictions, only to tighten them again later. Regardless of the official limits, however, Israeli forces often target even farmers who work in permitted areas and carry out periodic ground. In addition, throughout the year, Israeli aircraft repeatedly spray herbicide on Palestinian lands along the borders, causing damage to agricultural crops, even in areas that are more than 300 meters from the fence. This means threatening farmers' only source of livelihood.

35%

of land suitable for agriculture is deducted by the buffer-zone.

5%

is Gaza’s agriculture’s share of the total GDP

13,723 dunums

of agricultural crops had been damaged by 2018.

70%

of the livestock that graze in the buffer zone was impaired.

Gaza Fishing Industry

The Oslo Agreement, signed by the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel in 1994, permits the Palestinians to sail up to 20 nautical miles (about 37 km) off the Gaza coast. However, that has never been permitted in reality. Instead, Israel arbitrarily limits fishing to an ever-changing zone that is never further than 12 nautical miles out.

95%

 
 

of Gaza fishermen live below the poverty line.

3-6-12 nautical miles

make up the area allowed for fishing.

3,600 fishermen

The number of registered fishermen in Gaza has fallen from 10,000 to 3,600 since 2000.

171

incidents where the Israeli navy targeted fishermen’s boats in 2020

The Israeli Military Operations in the Gaza Strip During the Blockade

During the past 15 years, Israeli forces launched three major attacks on the Gaza Strip: in 2008-2009, 2012 and 2014. Sporadic air and ground attacks occurred in between them.

Operation Cast Lead (2008-2009)

The first of the major attacks started on December 27, 2008, and lasted for 21 days—ending January 18, 2009. Over the course of the three weeks, Israeli forces dropped around 1 million kilograms of explosives on the strip, causing the destruction of nearly 4,100 houses and damaging 17,500 others. Nearly 1,500 (1,436) Palestinians were killed and about 5,400 others were injured, including many children and women.

Operation Pillar of Defense (2012)

This attack started on November 14, 2012, and lasted for eight days, ending November 21, 2012. Israeli warplanes killed 162 Palestinians, wounded nearly 1,300, and destroyed 200 houses. Another 1,500 homes were damaged.

Operation Protective Edge (2014)

The longest and most deadly Israeli attack on Gaza started July 8, 2014, and lasted 51 days—ending August 26, 2014. Euro-Med Monitor’s field team documented 60,664 Israeli land, sea and air raids, which killed 2,147 Palestinians (in many cases, involving one family) and wounded 10,870 others. A recorded 17,123 homes were hit, of which 2,465 were destroyed.

17,000 damaged houses

during Operation Cast Lead (2008-2009)

1,500 damaged houses

during Operation Pillar of the Defense (2012)

14,658 damaged houses

during Operation Protective Edge (2014)

66%

 
 

of the population in the densely populated Strip are refugees

Repercussions of the Electricity Crisis

The electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip dates to the start of the blockade in 2006, when Israeli forces bombed the six main transformers at the only power plant. Although the station was later partially repaired, a shortage of fuel also persists. As a result, the Strip suffers from a large deficit in electrical energy, with power outages for up to 12 hours per day.

 

 

30%

 
 

of Gaza residents are deprived of their right to water as a result of the constant electricity outage.

Less than half

of the amount of diesel needed to operate Gaza’s power plant at full capacity is available.

100 million liters

of contaminated (untreated) wastewater pumped daily into the Mediterranean due to power shortage, polluting the beaches.

The electricity crisis has forced hospitals to postpone non-emergency surgeries, thus increasing the estimated waiting period to 16 months by the beginning of 2021, compared to 3 months in 2005.

Act now to end the Blockade!

Information Sources

  • Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor
  • The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
  • The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
  • The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCATD)
  • Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics website
  • The Palestinian National Bureau for Gaza Reconstruction
  • Gaza Chamber of Commerce and industry
  • Rehabilitation Sector in the Palestinian NGO Network
  • Fishermen's Union
  • Union of Agricultural Work Committees
  • Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture